In summer 2016, the new Chase Sapphire Reserve® card was such a hit with millennials that the plant where the cards are made couldn’t meet the demand. Plant managers had to reorganize shifts to send the cards out, and the metal supply that was supposed to last for up to a year was gone in three weeks.
Four years later, the card’s initial welcome bonus has been halved from 100,000 and the $550 annual fee is high enough to shock the average consumer. Yet the Chase Sapphire Reserve®’s extensive list of savings, perks and benefits keep cardholders loyal and content.
Whether you’ve had this card for years or you’re considering signing up now, you can still get a lot of value out of it — if you use it right. Here’s how to get the most from the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Earn the welcome bonus
Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Points are worth 1 cent each toward travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal but a perk of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card is 50% more value for points when redeemed for travel, taking that value to 1.5 cents per point. So if you earn the bonus, it’s worth $750 in travel.
Pay yourself back
If travel isn’t your priority right now, Chase has another way to use your points. Until April 30, 2021, you can use Chase’s new Pay Yourself Back benefit to redeem points for a statement credit on purchases at grocery stores, home improvement stores and restaurants (including takeout and delivery). The 50% boost still applies, meaning 50,000 points can be worth statement credits of up to $750 in these categories. You can apply points for purchases made in the prior 90 days.
» Learn more: Your guide to Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature
Transfer points to an airline or hotel loyalty program
Booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal isn’t the only way to turn your points into flights and hotel stays. Chase partners with airline and hotel loyalty programs to let you transfer points at a 1:1 ratio.
Chase’s travel partners are:
Air France / KLM.
Though the 50% boost you get redeeming points for travel with Chase is hard to beat, sometimes you can do better booking award nights or flights directly through the hotel or airline.
For example, if you have status with an airline or hotel, converting your Chase points into another currency lets you book directly through the airline’s or hotel’s website, activating your elite status perks. Other times, you might be able to find specials and redemption deals through the hotel or airline website that weren’t available by booking directly through Chase. Either way, the points transfer option means you have two choices for booking the same flight or hotel so you can pick the better deal.
Earn points through everyday spending
Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders earn 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points per $1 spent on travel and dining worldwide, which works out nicely for international travelers since there are no foreign transaction fees. You also earn 10 points per $1 spent on Lyft rides until March 2022. All other purchases earn 1 point per $1 spent.
Chase defines travel broadly to include not just airlines and hotels but also car rentals, trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, parking lots, and garages. Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve® card on expenses like these to maximize your earnings.
» Learn more: Chase Ultimate Rewards: How to earn and use them
Maximize the $300 annual credit
Another perk of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card is a $300 annual travel credit, which comes in the form of statement credits to offset travel purchases charged to your card. The credits apply automatically to qualified purchases — no action required on your part. Until the end of 2020, the $300 annual travel credit also automatically covers purchases at grocery stores and gas stations.
Get DashPass perks
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card gets you not one but two benefits with food delivery service DoorDash. You get a two-year subscription to DashPass, which provides unlimited free deliveries on restaurant orders of $12 or more (other fees may apply). Plus, you’ll get reimbursed up to $60 in 2020 and another $60 in 2021 for DoorDash purchases charged to the card.
Enjoy $100 off the normal annual fee
In January 2020, Chase announced that it would increase the card’s annual fee from $450 to $550. The new annual fee was supposed to come into effect for existing cardmembers after April 1, 2020. Then, COVID-19 hit, and the issuer granted a $100 credit to offset the annual fee increase through July 1, 2020. Then, at the end of May 2020, Chase announced that for existing cardholders, the old $450 annual fee will remain in effect until the end of 2020.
Activate your Priority Pass Select membership
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card comes with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, granting you and your flying companions complimentary access to over 1,300 airport clubs all over the world. To activate your Priority Pass Select membership, log in to your Chase Ultimate Rewards® account, choose your Chase Sapphire Reserve® card and go to Card Benefits. From there, select "Airport Lounge Access" and click "Activate."
Sign up for Global Entry or TSA Precheck
Use your card to pay the application fee for Global Entry or TSA Precheck once every four years and you’ll be reimbursed up to $100.
Get a Lyft
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card comes with a free one-year membership to Lyft Pink, which gets you 15% off Lyft rides, plus priority airport pickups, easier cancellation terms and exclusive savings. Normally, Lyft Pink costs $199 per year.
» Learn more: Chase Sapphire showdown: Reserve beats Preferred, mostly
The bottom line
The $550 annual fee means the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card is definitely not for everyone. But users who can maximize the perks — including a $300 annual travel statement credit, accelerated points earning and valuable extras like Priority Pass, Lyft and DashPass memberships — can more than make up for it.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card